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Call Clegg: As It Happened - 7th February 2013

Thursday 7th february 2013

Nick Clegg has been answering LBC listeners' questions in the fifth of his historic radio shows this morning - here is how it went.

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The Deputy Prime Minister became the first senior minister to have a weekly radio phone-in when he is on Call Clegg with Nick Ferrari.

Here are the key moments of Call Clegg.


Nick Ferrari:    Good morning. One minute after nine and it is Call Clegg. Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg is in the studio and just before I take some questions, Deputy Prime Minister, thank you for coming in. Let's perhaps come to the most recent story. Front page news this morning, Michael Gove we hear, will later today say that he's going to have to scrap his ambitious plans for an EBacc. This is apparently in part due to opposition from you. What didn?t you like about the idea?

Nick Clegg:    I didn't like the original idea. You may remember last summer, when it was floated that we would move to a kind of two tier system where you tell one set of kids, "You're not bright enough to proceed" and then get sort of sent in one direction and then we only cater through a sort of O Level system, if you like, to a minority of kids. I didn't like that. I've always wanted an approach to exam reform and qualification reform, curriculum reform that is ambitious for higher standards. I think we do, and I'm totally at one with Michael Gove about this, that we need to try and do as well as the best countries around the world do.

NF:    Which we're not doing currently?

NC:    Well, I think what you'll hear in Michael's announcement... By the way, I want to pay tribute to Michael. I think when politicians actually listen to people, there were serious reservations expressed by the regulator, so-called Ofqual, which oversees the qualification system; he's listened and he's reacted. We can't have it both ways. People say, "Oh, politicians never listen" and then when a politician like Michael Gove listens, people are now saying somehow he shouldn't have done that. I think...

NF:    Some would argue, I think he could have listened earlier, Mr Clegg.

NC:    Well, this was always a consultation process about the proposals. He and indeed I, both set out last September. There is no point in having a consultation if you've already made up your mind about what you're going to do at the end of it. He's quite rightly listened and he's going to make an announcement today which I think will show parents and teachers that we are as ambitious as ever as a coalition government, for higher, better standards. But at the same time, to make sure that the approach is broad based, it's not too narrow so that it encompasses lots of subjects and not just a narrow focus on some of them, and also it doesn?t reinvent the wheel in places where Michael has arrived at the decision we don?t need to reinvent the wheel.

NF:    And just lastly on that, some of my listeners, we've been discussing this, as you may be aware, Deputy Prime Minister. They are saying that in a way, education exams are too much of a political football. They would like to see people like you, the Labour party and Conservatives getting together and to define a route, whatever it might be, and then all of you blokes stick to it.

NC:    Well, I very much hope we can actually create a kind of cross-party census on this and again, I think far from denigrating what Michael is set to say today, we should be applauding him that he is actually listening to other voices and is not being highly partisan about this. So saying, "I've listened to the evidence and I'm going to amend my original plans." That is, I think, a sensible way of doing what is right for our children.

Steve, Bushey Heath:    Chris Huhne. Will he be able to repay the 17,000 he was given to fight his case now he's been proven a liar?

NF:    Since he left his ministerial post, he would have been given a 17,000 settlement or allowance, or whatever it is, when you lose your cabinet post. And Steve is interested, Deputy Prime Minister, will he be paying that back? And indeed, your views on Chris Huhne?

NC:    Well, Chris Huhne hasn't been sentenced yet. He's pleaded guilty. As was as surprised, shocked and saddened as anybody else by that announcement on Monday morning.

NF:    But he phoned you beforehand, surely?

NC:    He phoned me on Sunday night, yeah.

NF:    What did you say to him?

NC:    I said to him that I thought he arrived at the right decision, to..

NF:    Were you angry?

NC:    [Pause]. I think, you know...

NF:    He'd let you down, hadn't he? He'd lied to you.

NC:    He had said what he'd said beforehand and of course, I believed the account that he provided beforehand and he then told me on Sunday night that instead, he was going to plead guilty and he now faces the consequences of that. The judge is...

NF:    But how did you feel that you had been lied to?

NC:    I'm not, if you don't mind, I'm not going to provide a running commentary on how I sort of felt. I've said that I felt shocked and saddened. Do you know what? Beyond the rights and wrongs of it, which at the end of the day it's for the judge to decide what sentence Chris should face; it's for the people of Eastleigh to decide what MP they want next, which is why I'm keen they should have that choice as soon as possible. I'll tell you what I actually feel beyond anything else, and I'm sure everyone feels this, is just for the whole family, it's just terrible to see Chris and Vicky's children being dragged into this in the way that they have. I think it?s important that the legal process now...

NF:    But he dragged them in, Deputy Prime Minister. You could argue the father brought them in.

NC:    Well, the children are certainly innocent. That much is clear. That's often the case when husbands and wives, and marriages break apart. It's often the children that suffer.

NF:    Has he let the party down, Mr Clegg?

NC:    I think he will no doubt feel contrite. He's...

NF:    But if we look at the Lib Dems...

NC:    He stood down immediately as an MP. You know, he's not going to be part of the Liberal Democrats. He won't be continuing a life in politics and I'm sure he'll want to, when he can, express that; express his own kind of feelings about that in his own time. I think it's important that we, the Liberal Democrats, get on and get out there particularly in his seat where actually, whatever the rights and wrongs of what he did... clearly he was wrong and he's going to be sentenced. He was actually a very good local MP and worked very hard, and I think that's the kind of tradition that...

NF:    You're not doing very well in cabinet, are you, with Lib Dems? David Laws had to go, Chris Huhne we now know is a liar. Vince Cable had to have powers taken away from him. Not performing well, are they"

NC:    Well, I actually think if you look at what the Liberal Democrats are doing in cabinet, if you look at the way...

NF:    That's neither here nor there.

NC:    Well no, it's quite important. Vince Cable is delivering more new apprenticeships to young people in this country than ever before. We?re delivering the biggest change to the tax systems that will take two million people on low pay out of paying any income tax. I think there's good stuff.

NF:    You're a decent fellow, and I've got to know you quite well over...

NC:    Thank you so much.

NF:    I don't think you're tough enough. Are you aware that David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP who talked about the Jewish atrocities against the Palestinians, he's in the front page of the Jewish news this morning? He's not recanting. He just wants to change the words from 'The Jews' to 'The Jewish community.'

NC:    Well, he has...

NF:    When this story first broke, Mr Clegg, I asked you whether you had phoned him up and given him a bit of a going over and you said you hadn't. Do you feel you should do occasionally now, with some of your MPs?

NC:    My Chief Whip did. I can tell you one thing, Nick. You can't do my job and you certainly can't put up with the brick bats that have been thrown at me for the last two and a half years without having a very thick skin and being extremely tough. It's one of the...

NF:    But this bloke's not heeding your word, or heeding the word of the party, is he?

NC:    David Ward has apologised for what he said. It was quite right that he should apologise. What he said was completely out of order and that was made completely clear to him. You seem to be preoccupied about whether it's the Chief Whip who administers that message to him or whether I pick up the phone or not.

NF:    I'm staggered that one of your MPs who said he was "Saddened that the Jews who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust could within a few years of liberation be afflicting atrocities on the Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so." He subsequently was forced to apologise. Now he simply wants to change the word 'Jews' with 'the Jewish community.'

NC:    I haven't read the article you just thrust in my hand.

NF:    I appreciate that.

NC:    You should let the listeners get a look-in to Call Clegg in a minute.

NF:    Yes, we will.

NC:    That was the point of this programme.

NF:    We shall.

NC:    But I was very, very clear at the time that what I thought David Ward said was totally out of order. He apologised.

NF:    But this isn?t acceptable, is it? Just changing it to 'Jewish community.' That's ridiculous.

NC:    Nick, you can't ask me to do, to sort of... He's apologised. I made sure that he did apologise because what he said was wrong. It was deeply, deeply offensive to some...

NF:    And just changing it to that doesn't make any difference, does it?

NC:    I stand by his apology and his apology was right, to apologise because what he said was wrong. He asked me, "Am [I] tough enough on my MPs?" Actually, I think if you look at the way in which the Liberal Democrats and our parliamentary party have been under remorseless pressure after the last two and a half years, under my leadership, we have remained more coherent, more united and more resolute, and more determined than I would suggest any other political party in Westminster at the moment. That, I think, is a demonstration of toughness.

Andy, Feltham:    A question about prison closures. The service and the Government have announced the closure of seven more prisons on top of three that were closed last year. This is a very misguided policy, losing prison places, affecting staff and offenders. Two parts to the question: would you reconsider this misguided policy? And there is a protest meeting next Wednesday outside the House of Commons; would you agree to meet the protesters?

NC:    I don't think it's wrong that what Ken Clark and Chris Grayling have done is to try and make sure that of course, we have enough prison places as are needed in our criminal justice system. But where you have got prison places, parts of the prison estate which are not needed or aren't working properly, or are more than we require, that we focus our resources on the rest of the prison estate. As you know, we're introducing very tough community sentences to make sure that people stop reoffending. The biggest challenge we have got, and do you work at the centre in Feltham?

A:    I work at Feltham, yes.

NC:    Well then, you will know as well as I do, particularly in the youth prison estate, the problem we have got is people commit a crime, they go into prison for a short spell and they become hardened criminals. They go out and they commit another crime, and you just get this revolving door of crime. We have sky high rates of reoffending which were left unchallenged by the Labour government. What we're doing is aggressively seeking to change the behaviour of criminals so that they don't just simply come in and out of these universities of crime. What we are starting to succeed in doing that, and that means, for instance, reoffending amongst youth offenders has actually dropped quite sharply over the last two or three years, and that means that we can, where necessary, make some savings by making sure the prison estate is not as big as it was before.

Deborah in Ewesley: I support Disability Politics UK. We're campaigning to get the law changed to allow Members of Parliament to job share. This will help to get more disabled and women MPs. Nick, in January 2010, you supported job sharing for MPs in a Mumsnet online chat session before you became Deputy Prime Minister. Legal advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission says the electoral commission is likely to be breaking the law by not allowing MPs to job share. Nick, I would like to know if you still support job sharing for MPs, and if you would please read the legal advice if I send it to you?

NC:    I will certainly, of course, read the legal advice if you send it to me. I think the idea, or any creative ideas over getting more people with disabilities into politics has got to be a good thing. John Bercow and others; he's the speaker of the House of Commons, as you know. There is a speaker scheme which is providing new money, help and resources to budding politicians with disabilities to help them get into Westminster. Maybe in the future, MPs, maybe...

NF:    Job shares?

NC:    Frankly, it's one of those things that the more we have looked at it, as you know, Deborah, of course the more tricky it is to work out exactly how it would work. But if there is a case to be made that this is one way of allowing more opportunity for people with disabilities into politics, I think it's something that any reasonable person would look at with an open mind.

NF:    And in a sentence, the idea of a job share, it's not off the table then?

NC:    I think it is off the table certainly during this Parliament. I don't; we're not over the next two and a half years going to have MPs sharing constituencies. The point that Deborah is making is it might be one way in the long run in which you would get people with disabilities into politics where at the moment we just don't have nearly enough people with disabilities who feel they're able to get into politics. But look, this is a radical idea. Deborah, you have said to me there is some legal advice for me to look at. Of course I will look at it with an open mind.

NF:    And if you want to send that literature into us here, Deborah, I will make sure it gets sent onto one of Mr Clegg's team. Thanks, Deborah. Next caller, if you would, Mr Clegg.

Terence in Finchley: David Cameron visiting Libya last week, stated that North Africa has now become a haven for Jihadist terrorists. It's now generally accepted that the terrorist hostage takers who committed the atrocities in Algeria entered the country from Libya. For many, many months we bombed, together with the French, Gadaffi's military in support of the so-called 'rebels' and 'freedom fighters'. Time and time, and time again, Gadaffi and his son, his son as a matter of interest, we do not know what has happened to him. They warned us; they warned the West that we were aiding and assisting extremists and terrorists, a warning we chose to ignore.

My question to you is: do you now accept, do you now recognise that our actions in Libya, our interference in another country's internal affairs was a big mistake which has seriously destabilised and separated half of Libya?

NC:    I don't accept that, Terence. You're quite right to anticipate that I wouldn't agree with you on this. I think you should remember, Terence, why we took the action with the French and others, in the way that we did. We didn't put boots in the ground. It wasn't like Iraq. It was done fully in line with international law, with international opinion. What we did, however, was react to a very direct threat by Gadaffi, to go into Bengazi and slaughter the people of Bengazi. Now, my question to you, Terence, is do you think it would have been okay for us to stand by while that man said, in terms, he said, "I'm going to crush and kill, and slaughter the people of Bengazi because I don't accept their right to try and express their own views and own freedoms in Bengazi?" I think we were entirely right to intervene at that point to avoid a major humanitarian disaster in Bengazi.

T:    This was before we started bombing with the French. Can I just say something about Gadaffi? I had no chance with anybody...

NC:    Well, that's the whole point it was before. That's why we did it, in order to stop...

NF:    Let Mr Clegg answer.

NC:    Terence, that's what I'm trying to say. That was exactly the order of events. Gadaffi made it very clear that he was going to enter into Bengazi, which as you remember, was the centre of the anti-Gadaffi resistance in Libya. He made it very clear that he was going to act in a way which would lead to a blood bath in Bengazi. We and the French and others, then reacted. I just don't think it's right to say that we should somehow turn our back on that kind of threat, that kind of potential humanitarian disaster.

T:    But these were terrorists.

NC:    Well, I don't accept that the people who were demonstrating in Bengazi: doctors, teachers, ordinary people, families who were simply wanting to express themselves...

T:    That's not true.

NC:    Well, there you and I completely disagree and unless you know something about the people of Bengazi that I don't, I think many people who observed it at the time, realised this was actually a well-spring of a demand for change from many ordinary people in Bengazi.

NF:    Alright, I think we have to respect, or I would ask you both to respect your positions.Terrence, thank you. A caller now from Islington.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson:    Hi Nick. It's Boris here from Islington. I just want to ask you, when are you going to get all those Government ministers out of their posh limos and onto public transport like everybody else? And how can we possibly expect Government to vote for increases in infrastructure spending which we need in this city, and upgrading the tube, which we all need, when they sit in their chauffeur driven limousines, paid for by the taxpayer rather than getting down on public transport with the rest of us? Nick, get them out of their limos! Boris, over and out.

NC:    I think Boris... if you're listening, I think we've actually cut the amount of taxpayer money which is used to pay for the cars and everything for Ministers. So I think it's about 70%. We've massively slashed it and changed it.

NF:    We still read of Ministers taking cars for sort of 100 yard journeys and things like that. These 80,000 a year chauffeur driven cars including driver are still in existence.

NC:    Clearly ministers, myself included, drive in cars; not all the time; I'm about to jump onto a train to go up to Sheffield later this afternoon. But I think the fact that we've cut the bill inherited from Labour for ministerial cars by, I think it's around 70% (I can double check), which is a huge, huge change. It's a big step in the right direction. Also, I would say to Boris, in terms of infrastructure, I'm completely with him on this; we should wherever we can, find whatever available money we can to invest in housing, in transport, in energy and the kind of infrastructure that we need. It creates jobs today, it helps the economy in the future. We've got Europe's largest infrastructure project, Cross Rail, here in London. George Osborne and the Treasury, to be fair to them, have offered, I think it's about 60, no, about 50 billion of treasury guarantees to get infrastructure projects going in London. So my challenge to Boris is, is he going to use the treasury guarantees offered by this coalition government for infrastructure projects to help Londoners?

NF:    Well, Deputy Prime Minister, he?s sitting in that very seat next week, so if you...

NC:    Well, ask him that.

NF:    We'll put your question now. Go ahead.

NC:    Tell him to get out of his limo and to get the infrastructure projects that we?re offering him moving.

Bill in Ruislip:    The question I would like to ask you, Mr Clegg, is as you know, you sacked 3,500 British servicemen and women. What will you do to rehouse those that need rehousing and those that need jobs, plus the people who have lost their limbs, who were fighting for their country?

NC:    Well Bill, firstly as you know, it's an incredibly difficult thing, this, to bring our military services down to a kind of size which we can sustain in the long run. We think that's the right thing to do because it's just not fair. It's not fair on people who work so professionally and so selflessly in our military, to somehow pretend that we can support them in a way that we can't when we've got a huge black hole in the military defence's budget. So that's what we've been trying to sort out. That has involved a reduction in the number of people in our military services. The vast, vast bulk of that reduction has come through people voluntarily saying, "Okay, I'll take up the offer. I'll take up the resettlement package. I'll take up the offer of support to find another job." And actually, a caller asked me this about three weeks ago.

I looked into it then, Bill, and there's some really good programmes offered by the Ministry of Defence and by the Department for Work and Pension to give individual help to these...

NF:    So this idea these fellows are just slung on the scrapheap is simply not fair. It might be the stuff of headlines, but in reality, it doesn't appear to be the case.

NC:    I really don't think that's fair, Bill. I think if you look at the number of people who have managed to find new work, managed to find homes, managed to find a kind of new life, if you like, after their time in the military services, we're getting quite good at helping people to make that transition.

NF:    Alright this is some questions that are coming in on the texts emails and tweets, Bill thank you for that. This one come in from Kenneth in Dartford, he refers us to page two of the Daily Telegraph. 'Clegg to provide Mansion Tax Campaign' is the headline, Kenneth asks why on earth is he going back to this idea, it was a busted flush from Vince Cable at a party conference three years ago just let it go, man, says Kenneth in  Dartford. Are you aware by the way, Deputy Prime Minister, you have probably seen that? This is the idea that you are going to speak later today that you want to come back to the idea of a mansion tax. Nick Clegg?

NC:    Yeah, I am giving a speech later in general terms about how you have got to make the tax system fairer. You have got to remember that we inherited a tax system from Labour where a cleaner was paying more tax on their wages than the banker or hedge fund manager?

NF:    In percentage terms?

NC:    In percentage terms than their employer was on their shares. We believe that you need to make the tax system fairer. I think one of the ways to make the tax system fairer is to address this anomaly; at the moment you have got great big palaces around Regent's Park which are up for sale for tens of millions of pounds and the Council Tax you will pay on that, whoever buys those great big mansions, is basically the same as someone is paying in a family home in Lewisham and that just can't? it just doesn't make sense it seems to me that an oligarch can come here and pay for one of these great inner London city centre palaces and pay the same Council Tax as a hard working family in another part of London. That just doesn't make sense to me.

NF:    So Mansion Tax is the way forward Mr Clegg?

NC:    What we are asking? it's not actually that sort of outlandish, what we are saying is, the suggestion is which is our preferred option is to ask people who live in properties that are worth more than 2 million to pay 1% on the value of 2 million so nothing extra up to 2 million and then only 1% on the value above 2 million.

NF:    And this is what you will be saying later today?

NC:    What I am saying is that, coupled with our big push which everyone will see in their pay packets a big change in April such that the point at which you start paying income tax will be raised very dramatically by the highest amount ever means that we are giving about 600 compared to the beginning of this parliament, about 600 back in the pocket of over 20 million basic rate tax payers. Those ideas and indeed that is action, which I think demonstrates our commitment to fair taxes.

NF:    Two more texts, tweets and emails. David Turner in Ealing reminds me that you haven't actually said whether Chris Huhne should pay back the 17,000 for that allowance, 'we need an answer', says David Turner 'or this is a waste of time'.'

NC:    David I can't give you an answer because at the end of the day Chris Huhne has got to make that decision but I totally understand why people think that now that he has pleaded guilty and when he's sentenced that he should pay amends for what's happened but at the end of the day, Chris has got to make that decision and at the moment I don't yet know what sentence the Judge of course is going hand down to him.

NF:    Dan in Kent says "We've spent 13 million on an enquiry into what went wrong at Mid Staffordshire Hospital and yet no-one seems to blame. Is this a waste of money? How can you guarantee the safety of patients in the NHS?"

NC:    I think it's a very good question, I think everybody will have been really unsettled by this report, the Francis Report on what happened in Mid Staffs, it's just still beggars belief.

[Patients] lying in their own urine who had to drink from flower vases, left abandoned, it was just astonishing. I think what Francis says, the author of the report is quite interesting, he said "Look it isn't a question about pointing the finger of blame to one individual, there is a problem with the culture in that case of a hospital, that was so busy chasing particular targets set by the government of the day", and remember this was some years ago under the previous Government, so busy chasing these targets they just forgot the basic instincts of care and compassion to other human beings and it's that culture change that we need to try and somehow instill in the NHS and that's why what we are doing - and the Prime Minister announced this yesterday - is actually overhauling the accountability in the NHS so you know where hospitals aren't doing as well as they should do and making sure that people who run those hospitals are held to account.

NF:    But is the man to do it Sir David Nicholson, who was Chief Executive of the West Midlands Strategic Local Authority, which actually had Mid Staffs under his remit, and now he's head of the NHS, he's pulls down 270,000 a year and apparently he is the man tasked with giving us all our confidence back in the National Health Service, Mr Clegg?

NC:    Well as I said, the report is very clear that it is not one individual's fault.

NF:    So you have confidence in Sir David Nicholson?

NC:    I have confidence in Sir David Nicholson, but that doesn't mean that lessons shouldn't be learnt by everybody in the NHS including Sir David Nicholson. When you have one of these enquiries you have got to take the report seriously and not immediately re-invent it within a few hours, the report very clearly said "I am not pointing the finger of blame" this is what the report said "I am not pointing the finger of blame at any individual" either David Nicholson or someone else. Everybody has got to learn lessons as it happens the Chief Executives of the hospital Trust at the time have left their jobs a long time ago. What we now need to do is work together with everybody in the NHS. Let's not forget, thankfully, this is, broadly speaking, an aberration.

NF:    Well, there are five other trusts as you will be aware Deputy Prime Minister?

NC:    There are five other trusts where we have said that the mortality rates are well above average we are going to have a look at them?

NF:    And let's hope you are right, but at the moment?

NC:    Hang on, I just think we shouldn't? it's unfair on the Doctors and Nurses who work so hard in the NHS every day to kind of swing to the other extreme and somehow say that the whole of the NHS is like Mid Staffs was some years ago. That is clearly not the case and most of the people that I meet in the NHS still have that selfless desire to do good and to do right by the people and the patients that they are looking after that we value so much in the NHS.  I think the lesson of all of this is that it is those instincts, it's those human instincts of compassion at care that are at the end of the day, more important than some of the targets that people were being asked to chase.

Denise in Holloway: I just wanted to ask Mr Clegg what is actually his day to day responsibilities as Deputy Prime Minister and what is his legacy, what is he going to be leaving behind that people will actually remember what he has done, strategically, for the people of this country, because, let's face it, come the next General Election he will not be in government?

NF:    Is that right Mr Clegg?

NC:    Well I very much hope that I will be Denise and I wouldn't gently suggest that as predicts exactly what the outcome of the General Election is going to be now when it's not happening for another couple of years. I am the Deputy Prime Minister of this coalition government so that means that the Prime Minister and I together kind of oversee everything that is going on in Government because neither party won outright and we govern in the National Interest together, so that in a nutshell is how it works.

NF:    What is the legacy?

NC:    I suppose the Legacy that I want in the most general terms is that given that we inherited this monumental mess left by Labour in the economy is to rebuild the economy, to create a stronger economy, in a fairer Society, enabling everybody to get on in life. That in a nutshell is what I stand for

I think everything from our changes in education, giving young children from the most difficult backgrounds through the Pupil Premium something I first wrote about 10 years ago, which has now been delivered in schools across the country, to give children from the most difficult backgrounds a better head start in life.

Changing the tax system in the way I describe so that someone on the minimum wage, Denise, this April, because of changes that again, I championed in opposition and I am now delivering in government, will have that income tax bill halved. The very, I think decent thing we've done on pensions so that everybody on a state pension has a triple lock guarantee that's something that my party campaigned on before we came into government so that your state pension you'll know will always go up by a decent amount. The massive increase, never happened on this scale before, of apprenticeships for people across the country, these are things Denise, that I hope you will agree, are not just sort of small, little, higgledy piggledy changes.

NF:    How important was the Gay Marriage vote? How important was that to you personally? You were seen as one of the champions of it.

NC:    I am one of the champions of it for the simple reason that I; I have a huge amount of respect for people who sincerely feel that their understanding for religious or other reasons, is that marriage is only about procreation

NF:    A man and a woman?

NC:    I just have an equally sincerely held view that what you want to celebrate in marriage is love. Is love and commitment of two individuals to each other and I don't think that if two individuals regardless of what gender they are want to express that love to each other I don't see why we shouldn't celebrate that equally for everybody.

Paul in Hendon: Good morning, I just want to know Mr Clegg, during the by-election for Mr Huhne's seat are you going to be speaking out against David Cameron? And how are you going to react if the Tories win?

NF:    This is the Eastleigh by-election, the Lib-Dems defending a majority north of 3000 so it's all to play for, Nick Clegg?

NC:    It will be a tough by-election contest, I will be campaigning there and I will campaigning for a candidate that will be selecting in a couple of days? time.

NF:    You've called for the by-election and you haven't got the candidate yet. Are you sort of trying to get ahead of the Conservatives or something?

NC:    No, we just don't think it's fair on the people of Eastleigh given what's happened very dramatically this week to have a great big gap where they are not properly represented in Parliament, I believe that people should be represented in Parliament and I want the people of Eastleigh to be represented by a hardworking local champion who stands up for Eastleigh, understands Eastleigh

NF:    You haven't got him or her yet, your candidate?

NC:    We will in a couple of days, I don't think the fact that it's going to take a couple of days before we decide who is the right person to represent Eastleigh should make a huge difference one way or another in a three week by-election campaign but in answer to your question of course there are differences between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives and we should never hide them we've just got to be quite relaxed and grown up about it. We are different parties, I believe for instance as the way I explained to you Nick, earlier, that you need to have a fairer tax system we asked people at the very top to chip in a bit to help everybody else, the Conservatives don't agree with that. That's just a straightforward disagreement between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives where we are in favour of fairer tax system and the Conservatives for reasons that they can explain to you are not.

I don't think we need to be aggressive about it, I don't think we need to be insulting about it and we certainly should give the people of Eastleigh a choice because otherwise what's the point of a by-election contest?

NF:    And you will be a vigorous and present force during the campaign.

NC:    You bet, leading toughly from the front.